Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR): Overview and More

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Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a type of sensory experience involving the senses of sight, hearing, and touch. Many refer to it as a meditation-like experience that provides relaxation and a feeling of overall well-being. However, it is a very subjective and personal experience for each individual.

When people have an ASMR response, they usually experience a relaxing, tingling feeling on the neck and scalp, sometimes referred to as "brain tingles." Benefits include temporary decreases in pain and depression.

Read on to learn more about ASMR sensations and triggers.

person with their eyes closed, head tilted back, with headphones in listening to music

Luis Alvarez / Getty Images

Types of ASMR

Researchers have only begun to study this phenomenon in recent years. What is known so far is that ASMR creates two general sensation types: physical feelings and psychological feelings.

  • Physical feelings: Fuzzy warmth, waves of relaxation, and pleasant tingling sensations that extend throughout the head, neck, spine, and body
  • Psychological feelings: Calm, peaceful, relaxing feelings that promote restfulness or sleepiness

ASMR responses can come about on purpose by seeking out stimuli or by accident by hearing or seeing something that triggers a response. Thus, researchers note two types of ASMR: intentional and unintentional.

  • Intentional ASMR occurs when someone purposely tries to get an ASMR response. This can be by watching videos, listening to music, or performing a sensory task to elicit an ASMR response.
  • Unintentional ASMR occurs when something triggers a response in a person when they are not intentionally seeking one.

Example of Unintentional ASMR

One well-known example of unintentional ASMR is Bob Ross, the American painter who was televised teaching people how to create nature painting. Although Ross never intended to help viewers relax or cause an intense sensory response to his videos, many people who want to experience ASMR watch his videos.

Some of the triggers in Ross's videos include his deep, calm, and authoritative voice, the personal attention he seems to provide his viewers, and the scraping sounds of his brush.

ASMR Sensations

One study reported a wide range of feelings from the ASMR experience. The most commonly reported feeling was a "tingling sensation." This sensation usually starts in the back of the scalp and migrates down the line of the spine.

In some cases, the sensation also extends out to the shoulders, the lower back, arms, and legs. Researchers noted that the amount of tingling sensation appeared related to the amount of triggering stimuli used.

The location of the body where the tingling sensations began with ASMR also varied:

  • 63% of study participants stated that the tingling always started in the same body area—mainly from the back of the head (41%) or shoulders (29%).
  • 27% of study participants stated the tingling originated in different body areas.
  • If the sensation was intense enough, participants said it extended down the spine (50%), arms (25%), and legs (21%).

Researchers noted that ASMR sensations varied with each session, even for the same participants.

What Triggers ASMR?

Things that trigger ASMR can differ from person to person. However, the euphoric sensations of ASMR usually stem from certain sounds, smells, sights, or other stimuli.

Several known external triggers have the potential to elicit an ASMR response in people. Triggers to ASMR, from most common to least common, include:

  • Whispering
  • Direct personal attention
  • Crisp sounds, such as metallic foil or finger tapping
  • Slow movements
  • Repetitive movements or watching repetitive tasks
  • Smiling
  • Airplane noise
  • Vacuum cleaner noise
  • Laughing

Other triggers include the sound of crinkling paper, certain types of music, or even watching someone else focus on a task.

There is little data regarding the cause of ASMR activation in the brain. However, a 2018 study used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine the brain activity of people with "prescreened" ASMR abilities. The participants watched ASMR videos and notified researchers of specific moments of tingling and relaxation feelings of ASMR.

Researchers determined that participants showed "significant activation" in brain areas associated with reward and emotional arousal during reported moments of ASMR.


ASMR research shows that ASMR can reduce anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

It may also be helpful in relieving symptoms of chronic pain.

Social Connections

It is unknown how many people are capable of experiencing ASMR. However, fans of ASMR appear to be connecting online, and ASMR is gaining in popularity.


ASMR is a physical and physiological experience involving the senses of sight, hearing, and touch. Some people experience feelings of relaxation and calmness when exposed to ASMR. Many people cite the response they get from ASMR is a tingling sensation, which usually starts in the back of the head and travels down the spine. The sensation also extends out to the shoulders, the lower back, arms, and legs in some cases.

Some of the most common ASMR external triggers are whispering, personal attention, crisp or crunching sounds, and slow or repetitive movements. Research has shown that people experience significant activation in brain areas associated with reward and emotional arousal during reported moments of ASMR.

A Word From Verywell

For many people, ASMR provides a relaxing, calm, and pleasurable experience. Only recently have studies identified how ASMR can be useful in putting people in a meditative state. There is a wide range of ASMR-inducing content available online today. If you have any questions or concerns about ASMR and how it might benefit you, talk to your healthcare provider for more information.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Sarah Jividen, RN
Sarah Jividen, RN, BSN, is a freelance healthcare journalist and content marketing writer at Health Writing Solutions, LLC. She has over a decade of direct patient care experience working as a registered nurse specializing in neurotrauma, stroke, and the emergency room.